As a regular member of the Reigate, Redhill and District Rail User Association (RRDUA) and commuter I am passionate about how we can improve train services in Redhill, Reigate and our local stations. I think there is (still) much to do, and a clear role for government to make it better. This should include:
- Take Back Control of Southern (just like the London Mayor holds TfL to account) and taking failing franchises back in-house (including Southern)
- Bringing in Fairer Fares with the new 2018 timetable (which could still be better) – and 3-day a week season tickets on Oyster; and
- Working closer with Network Rail to secure longer term plans including a flyover for the Redhill line at Stoats nest to speed up our London journey, a pedestrian footbridge at Redhill and electrification of the North Down’s Line
Government Failed to Stand up to Southern, so in the Delay it was we who Paid out
I understand, totally, the hard last few years we have had commuting to London. Our constituency has been hit hardest by the works at London Bridge (as Redhill is on the ‘slow-line’ to Brighton, so has been hit more than services into London than those on the ‘fast line’). And has been hit again by the RMT and ASLEF disputes. But the government response has been inadequate.
In London it is the Mayor of London that holds Transport for London (TfL) to account. However, here, out of London we need the UK government, that is Ministers overseeing the Department of Transport, to hold our train companies to account. This has plainly not happened. The Conservatives have let the rail dispute continue with Southern (who as a ‘managing agent’ had no financial incentive to end the strike). The costs of the strike, including the £50m delay-repay bill which covers only a fraction of the financial impact to commuters, was picked up by government and repaid by us, the taxpayer. Unacceptable. We need a government that is prepared to step in and help resolve disputes not wash its hands and leave a company, in this case Southern Rail, failing to act.
When Rail Company Franchises Fail then take them in-house.
The Green Party position is to bring the rail franchises back into public ownership. When the East Coast Mainline franchise failed it was taken over by the state where it was more profitable. It was then privatised. Instead of a system where the company makes risk-free money and then passes on financial impacts (like the recent strike) to the government, this public good should be run publicly. This would enable the government to stop the annual above-inflation hike in rail prices, so our cost to commute is similar to that in Europe.
Bring in Fairer Fares with the new 2018 timetable – and 3-day a week season tickets
Which brings me on to fairs. Simply speaking we pay to much in this constituency – more per mile than commuters nearer London, further to the coast, to the East and to the West. We are in centre of the biggest timetable re-organisation to be brought in following the 10 day shutdown this next Christmas and New Year. This should be the time to rationalise fares, and make good the promise from the 2015 general election’s Fair Fares campaign. It is not right that the fairs from Redhill are more expensive than East Grinstead, and in some cases it is still cheaper to get a train ticket from Gatwick when I travel to London from Earlswood. So, we must fight for:
- The Oyster option to be cheaper than the ticket option (in some cases it is still more expensive).
- The Oyster zone to be extended to Reigate (by TfL), and
- Now we have electronic tickets have a 3-day-a-week or 4-day-a-week season ticket option for those who partly work from home, or part-time, such as back-to-work mums.
Finally, as MP I would seek regular meetings with Network Rail. The state of Redhill station could be better. Regardless of future development plans more bike racks could be extended along the bank, the pigeon netting finally complete and why not have a tour or a display of the new platform zero plans. And in terms of improvements there are three further things that should be prioritisied:
- A flyover at Stoats Nest invested in the next investment period, to secure more fast services from the Redhill line to London in future.
- A pedestrian – platform level bridge – from Redhill station to the Bus Station as this would massively help rush-hour congestion around Redhill. The recent changes to traffic around the station were government funded – but missed an opportunity.
- Electrify the North Downs Line (which should also be part of the government’s plan to tackle air pollution) and investigate how we can improve the services between Redhill and both Tonbridge and Reading (perhaps a new Tonbridge to Reading route).These longer-term plans they should be planned now, not just routes to/from London like Thameslink and Cross Rail.But the priorities for now still remain – stand up to Southern and bring failing franchises into public ownership, and secure a deal to bring in fair fares for our Redhill, Reigate and our other stations). There is no excuse – we should be making public transport more affordable, and the 2018 timetable is a perfect opportunity to do this. Now let’s make it happen.